Singapore court orders mother to pay damages to Jakarta Intercultural School

Singapore court orders mother to pay damages to Jakarta Intercultural School
PHOTO: Lianhe Zaobao

The Singapore High Court has awarded material compensation for the Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS) and two of its teachers in a defamation case against the mother of one of three alleged victims of sexual abuse.

The court ordered the mother to pay S$130,000 in damages to Canadian Neil Bantleman and Indonesian Ferdinant Tjiong and S$100,000 in damages to JIS and the principal at JIS.

Ferdinant, Bantleman and JIS had obtained a favorable judgement from the Singapore Court in February in the defamation case against the mother, who did not show up to the hearing. The recent Singapore High Court decided how much the mother should pay in damages to the defendants.

In the decision that was read on July 16, the high court considered the mother to have committed defamation through email and WhatsApp mobile application messages as well as through media reports by saying that the school "was aware of the abuse but wanted to wash their hands of this".

"I agree with the plaintiffs' submission that the defendant's accusations were of a particularly grave nature," Justice Lee Seiu Kin said in the verdict document published by lawnet.sg, a division of the Singapore Academy of Law.

"Not only did these accusations suggest sexual perversion on the part of the plaintiffs, they pointed to a systematic abuse of the trust reposed in educational institutions and individuals responsible for the learning and general well-being of the young children under their charge," he continued.

However, law expert from the University of Indonesia Chudry Sitompul said the court ruling could only be executed in Singapore as the country has no jurisdiction to enforce it in Indonesia.

According to him, JIS and the teachers must file the civil suit in a district court in Indonesia if they wish to claim for damages in Indonesia in the defamation case.

"[The Singapore High Court] decision can only be applied in Singapore, they have no ability to apply it here," Chudry told The Jakarta Post.

However, he said that the Singapore High Court could exercise the verdict if the mother had assets in the country.

International law expert from the University of Indonesia Hikmahanto Juwana emphasized that Indonesia was not "bound by or obligated to enforce a foreign court decision".

He agreed that JIS and the teachers could file a civil suit in Jakarta and present the Singapore High Court ruling as evidence to support their claim.

Separately in Jakarta, the verdict of a US$125 million civil lawsuit against JIS filed by the mother of another alleged victim was postponed by the judges.

A panel of judges at the South Jakarta District Court said Thursday that they "had yet to finish the verdict draft" and would have no choice other than to reschedule the hearing to Aug. 10.

"We have three verdicts to finish this week and there is just not enough time. I hope you can understand why we are postponing the hearing for 11 days," presiding judge Haswandi said during Thursday's hearing.

JIS' lawyer Harry Ponto said before the trial that he hoped the judges could consider the case thoroughly before making their ruling.

Despite a criminal case verdict that found JIS teachers and outsourced cleaners guilty of sexually abusing kindergarten boys at the school, Harry still emphasizes that the case never took place at the school.

"I hope the judges can consider all the evidence we present during the trial. There are no sexual abuse cases at JIS," he said, adding that the school "would be surely closed down for good" if the judges supported the $125 million civil suit.

On April 2, the court declared Bantleman and Ferdinant guilty of sexually abusing three kindergartners and sentenced each of them to 10 years' imprisonment.

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